Celebrating careers in law enforcement
Praise and recognition echoed through the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday as fellow law enforcement officers, friends and family joined Det. Ronnie Bailey and Cpl. Lee Allen during a luncheon to honor the two officers’ recent retirements.
“I worked closely with both Ronnie and Lee when I first came to the Sheriff’s Office in 2001,” said Sheriff Chris Francis. “I shared an office with Lee and he always had a big smile on his face and was always so dedicated. I also worked as an investigator with Ronnie on many crime scenes and he is just a great old-school detective.”
A native of Ellenboro, Bailey began his career with the Sheriff’s Office as a road patrolman and was sworn in on Jan. 18, 1995.
Before becoming a detective, he spent four years in the Marine Corps and then started working for the Department of Corrections in 1994.
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“I think I had really developed an interest for law enforcement while I was in the Marine Corps,” Bailey said. “One of the most challenging parts of the job I’ve found is working homicides. Very few of us are prepared for those.”
Bailey has served as a detective with the Sheriff’s Office for 12 years, during which time he has worked at least 30 homicides.
Francis said during the large number of homicides in 2004 and 2005, Bailey carried an important role and was the lead investigator in many of the cases.
“When something bad happens we’re the ones that people call, and Ronnie has worked so many serious crimes here in Rutherford County. He has so much knowledge of how to work the crimes and also of how to get the dynamics of each of those serious crimes,” Francis said. “Ronnie is the type of person that you want working that serious case if it was your family member involved. He’s the type of person who will always come out and who is very dedicated.”
But not all aspects of law enforcement are as challenging or as serious for Bailey. There are several parts of being a detective that he has enjoyed and skills he has learned.
“Sometimes with this job you have to hunt for your rewards, and in some way I like to think I’m making a difference and helping out people down the line,” he said. “I’ve also become a better listener, having had to interrogate a lot of people. Sometimes people tell the truth through lies and being able to analyze their answers is a very important skill to develop.”
In all, Bailey has spent 26 active years in law enforcement.
“Ronnie will certainly be missed because of his experience and dedication,” Francis said. “He’s always been a very go-to type of person, having worked many all-nighters at the Sheriff’s Office.”
Since retiring, Bailey is looking forward to trying his hand at a variety of other vocations.
“Law enforcement has been an enjoyable, challenging time,” he said. “I will most definitely miss the people — I’ve made and had some really good friends here.”
Fellow officer Allen, who also resides in Ellenboro, began his career with the Sheriff’s Office as a detention officer in Sept. 1996 and was sworn in as a deputy on June 15, 1999.
Two years later, Allen was promoted to Corporal and also held the position of D.A.R.E. officer.
“It’s hard for me as a sheriff to go anywhere in the county and be around young people and not have someone ask me about Lee,” Francis said. “Him being the D.A.R.E. officer for almost every school in the county for nearly a decade, he’s touched a lot of lives. And as many of those young people get older, they continue to ask about Lee and have fond memories of how he treated everyone with respect and cared for them.”
Francis said it was not uncommon to see Allen spending his lunch break to study a Bible school lesson that he planned to teach at church later that same evening. Allen was known for being a community police-oriented officer who really cared about members of the community.
“He was always working with kids and the youth group at his church,” Francis said. “He’s very passionate about helping young people and leading them in the right direction.”
In addition, Allen has served his community as part of the Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard and as an alderman on the Ellenboro Town Council, a seat he is seeking re-election for this November.
“He will be missed not only by law enforcement officers, but also by a lot of teachers and administrators from the Rutherford County Schools System,” Francis said. “Being a D.A.R.E. officer was not just a job for him, it was his passion. He lives his life just the way he teaches and he’s a role model for the children in the county.”